Lei Garden (Cupertino)
Lei Garden is a new Cantonese restaurant in Cupertino (in the former spot housing Fatima next to Target), opened up by the owners of Pan Tao on Wolfe Road (across from Cupertino Village). It has no relation to the vaunted chain in Asia.
The restaurant had its grand opening on Thursday. We went in early on Saturday evening before throngs of people packed a full house.
The menu is typical, if slightly restricted, Cantonese fare. We ordered a $70 set dinner, which gets you daily soup, a choice of Peking Duck or Lobster (sauteed in superior broth or steamed over vermicelli), and a choice of 4 dishes off a set list.
The meal started off fine, with a standard double-boiled soup of pork, melon and ginger. For those who like their soup on the less salty side, this leaned towards that.
We went with Lobster over Vermicelli, which was predictably prepared and cooked just right. This was the best dish of the night, and my only quip was over the quality of the soy sauce - they could have used something better.
For the four dishes, we had the satay fatty beef over vegetables, soy sauce chicken, lamb clay pot and fish fillets with peas. These ranged from bad to just mediocre.
The Soy Sauce Chicken was unusually hot (microwaved?), dry and overcooked. Even Marina (across the street) could do a better job than we got here.
Fish Fillets over Snap Peas were OK, but the pieces were broken up (rather in one piece) and skimpy on quantity. The kitchen didn't do a thorough job peeling the strings off the snap peas. We noticed quite a few other tables ordering this dish.
The Lamb Pot, while not "bad" couldn't keep up with other versions we've had (shallow flavoring to the sauce, no lettuce, not even a fire to keep it warm), and even the bean curd sheets were limp and soggy.
We added a Golden Double Egg Fried Rice. Unlike the version at Asian Pearl, this version substituted the dried fish and XO sauce with fresh shrimp. Again, not "bad" but lacking any wok hay or character.
And that's really how I felt about Lei Garden as a whole. It wasn't terrible, and nothing was done "wrong" per se (besides the chicken), but it was squarely in the mediocre category. It may not be a fair comparison, but the pricing (everything in the $10+ range) and aspirations pit it against the likes of Joy Luck, Dynasty and Saigon, but it falls short of those competitors. It's most similar to Fu Lum Mum in Mountain View, if I had to compare.
Thanks for the report. Sounds like the South Bay still has a lot of work to do to catch up to the level of Cantonese further north.
By the way, just learned that Cooking Papa's third location is confirmed....Mountain View (I forgot to get the exact address), in about 6 to 8 months...this is direct from the owner/manager. And you can see it mentioned on the rotating TV screens. Guessing the San Bruno location plans fell through.
Though I am curious...is Fu Lam Mum (dinner) any good? Not a fan of their dim sum.
re: K K
I'm very happy to hear that Cooking Papa will be trying its hand at a second South Bay location. Hopefully, it'll be more like the FC location than the rather cramped/crowded SC location.
I know you forgot the address, but was it an El Camino Real address or some side street? I sort of have some ideas of where it could be.
The specific address is - 1616 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA - where an Austin's BBQ chain restaurant used to sit. The lot has been vacant for... a decade or so? I think it's just the right size for Cooking Papa.
Fu Lam Mum's dinner is mediocre, and the cafe next door is even weaker. Joy Luck, Dynasty and even Saigon trump it handily. Kinda like Lei Garden, they have a more ambitious / interesting menu than they can execute. For example, they were recently advertising Choi-Bong-Hai for $35 (the crab-egg-whites dish that Koi Palace / Yum's Bistro do well), but I have doubts that they could execute it given that they can't even do the basics well. Castro's recent revitalization in restaurants has drawn us there frequently, and even on weekends at dinner, they fail to pack the house (on the lower level - the upper level is all but vacant now).